Thursday, July 16, 2009

Arizona Governor signs pro-gun bills

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed into law the restaurant carry bill, a law providing for retroactive application of a pro-self defense law, and several other pro-gun bills:

On restaurant carry:
... Brewer signed into law a proposal that will allow the state's 125,000 carriers of concealed-weapons permits to bring their firearms into bars and restaurants. The measure allows bar owners to remain gun-free by posting signs prohibiting weapons. Permit-holders would be prohibited from drinking in a bar while carrying their firearms.

For gun-rights advocates, the law means greater freedom for gun owners.

For opponents, it blends a dangerous cocktail of alcohol and guns.

"Any time law-abiding gun owners can carry firearms into more places, the safer the public is," said Todd Rathner, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.

Rathner noted that carriers of an Arizona concealed-weapons permit must undergo a criminal-background check, be fingerprinted and take an eight-hour training course. He called such permit holders "the most law-abiding citizens we have," and he noted that 39 states have a similar law in place relating to concealed weapons in bars and restaurants.

State Sen. Ken Cheuvront countered that the new Arizona law has more potential for danger because the state's permit system is among the more lenient nationally.

"All I know is that guns and liquor do not mix," said Cheuvront, a Democrat and the owner of a wine bar in central Phoenix. "They're putting other patrons and my staff at risk by having a gun in my establishment."

Brewer's approval of a second proposal will prohibit property and business owners from banning guns from parking areas, so long as the weapons are kept locked in privately owned vehicles.

The law exempts parking lots that are fenced or guarded, as well as those that provide secure gun storage.

Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman said both gun laws "struck a good balance" between the rights of gun owners and private-property owners. He called the governor's action "consistent with her long track record of defense of Second Amendment rights."

Lastly, Brewer OK'd a proposal that allows any individual who feels threatened to indicate that they're carrying a weapon without violating intimidation statutes. The law only applies for instances of self-defense.

On retroactive application of the self-defense law:
Senate Bill 1449 directly impacts the case of Harold Fish, who was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2004 shooting of a hiker near Payson. Fish claimed the shooting was self-defense. During Fish's 2006 trial, the state changed its self-defense law to shift the burden of proof from the defendant (the person claiming to fire in self-defense) to the prosecution.

The new law allows the modified self-defense law to be applied retroactively to Fish's case, as well as to any others filed after April 24, 2006, as long as the defendant did not plead guilty or no contest.

A state appellate court recently ruled in favor of Mr. Fish on his appeal, and sent the case back to the lower court for possible retrial. Should the state retry his case, this law would shift the burden of proof to the state.

What a refreshing change Gov. Brewer is, after all those years of anti-gun Gov. Janet Napolitano. Of course, Napolitano is now head of the Department of Homeland Security, so it's a mixed blessing.

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